Football Concussion Studies

Courtesy of Ed Yourdon via Flickr

A new article burst on the scene today from Ken Murray and the Baltimore Sun taking a look at studies that addressed concussions in the sport of football. Even with the attention today being given to the injury, most particularly football, it seems that researchers are just now delving into it. There have been a multitude of studies done and ongoing addressing this. One of the leaders in this area is Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz from the University of North Carolina.

Guskiewicz said that on average, North Carolina players had 950 impacts per player per season at practice. (The study was sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and by the National Operating Committee in Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE).

Guskiewicz said it was not just the number of concussions that was important, but the effect of sub-concussive impacts over an extended time, such as those sustained by NFL players.

Another study referenced in the Baltimore Sun article, done at Oklahoma University, using the same accelerometers to measure impact forces on the player being commented on by Dr. Julian Bailes.

Bailes drew similar conclusions after Oklahoma University did the accelerometer study to measure impacts on its players. He said the big hits — like those on defenseless wide receivers and quarterbacks — drew 90 to 100 G’s. And that was defined as the threshold for losing consciousness.

“So the Oklahoma data established the threshold for humans being knocked out,” Bailes said. “But what was amazing to me, they showed also that linemen were getting [impacts of] 20 to 30 G’s on every play.”

What is significant with this wonderful article by Ken Murray, is that more information is being gathered by researchers of the “non-traumatic” type head injuries. As we have seen with previous posts about CTE the accumulation of all these head injuries can be extremely dangerous. How and where we go from here in terms of rules/game changes for safety is not up to us. But developing a prevention plan, educating and making others aware could be a good step in the right direction.

American Academy of Neurology Recommendation

In a statement released today the American Academy of Neurology made recommendations for dealing with and treating concussions.  Here are the “Cliff’s Notes”

  • An athlete suspected of suffering a concussion should be removed from competition until evaluated by a doctor trained in assessing and treating sports concussions. Symptoms like unconsciousness, unsteadiness, problems with memory or concentration, dizziness or headache are warning signs, Kutscher said.
  • No athlete with symptoms should be allowed to take part in sports.
  • After a concussion, a neurologist or another physician with proper training should be consulted before the athlete is allowed to return to sports.
  • A certified athletic trainer should be present at all sporting events, including practices, where athletes are at risk for concussion.

In a story brought to us by Forbes, several MD’s were quoted in the story.

Dr. Jeff Kutscher, chair of the academy’s sports neurology section, said the academy’s current guidelines on managing concussions and when to return to play were written in 1997, and experience since then has shown they are inadequate. Experts hope to publish new guidelines by 2012, following a careful review of published studies, he said.

Dr. Kutscher also was keen on the certified athletic trainers being available for contact sports.  He even went as far as suggesting that if schools/teams did not have access to one, they should consider not having the sports.

Certified athletic trainers now work at about 40 percent of the nation’s high schools and are rarely provided for athletes in younger grades, said Kevin Guskiewicz of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

It would be a struggle to find enough of them to cover high schools and also programs for younger athletes, he said.

Univ. of North Carolina Model

Under the direction of a leader in the sport concussion world, Kevin Guskiewitz, the University of North Carolina (Tar Heels) have put together a model for dealing with concussions that the NCAA is now recommending as the suggested protocol.

While the NFL has been out in the media promoting this issue and seeing players in the popular league on a weekly basis get hurt, the news is there.  But quietly and effectively the NCAA is also tackling this problem head on (pun intended).  Committees have been working on getting a solid concussion model in place as soon as possible.  Which with 500+ schools under their blanket can be tough.

There are a lot of egos and “what about our ideas” out there, Continue reading